British solo sailor has ambitious plans for the next Vendée Globe


I was lucky enough to go sailing with Steve White last week. Fresh from his triumph in finishing the Vendée Globe, the modest and quietly talented Dorset sailor has big plans for the next race in 2012.

Meanwhile he has been doing some sailing days for BluQube, one of his sponsors, getting his boat back in full working order and pounding the speaking circuit to bring in some much-needed money.

He’s also on the hunt for a major sponsor for next time. Steve wants to raise £10 million to build a new boat for the solo round the race – and he knows exactly what he wants. He’d like to join a group from the Port La Forêt base in Brittany building from the moulds of new VPLP/Guillaume Verdier design to compete next time at the highest level.

The word is that the race winner, Michel Desjoyeaux is moving away from Farr Yacht Designs (about which his team was quite critical) to the combination of former Groupe Finot designer Guillaume Verdier and the multihull partnership VPLP.

Desjoyeaux worked closely with VPLP when he built the ORMA 60 Géant. With Verdier, they were responsible for Marc Guillemot’s Safran, which was enviously admired for its light winds speed, good looks and innovation.

Joining him in building from the moulds will, hopefully, be Jean Le Cam, who hopes to hang on to sponsors VM Matériaux. The idea is that the boats would be built at Mich Desj’s brother Hubert’s yard CDK in Port La Forêt.

In an ideal world, this is the jump Steve White would like to make. While his shoestring Toe in the Water campaign inevitably painted him as a plucky competitor somewhat from the Corinthian mould, White is anything but. He more than proved his competitiveness, and the practical abilities that are fundamental to seamanship.

As part of his plan, he would relocate to Brittany and follow in the footsteps of the top French solo sailors (and Sam Davies) by training in the Pôle France offshore training group.

Steve seems quietly confident that he could raise £10 million, and I hope he’s right. That’s roughly the sum all those who want to build anew are hoping for, but honestly, I do wonder if solo sailors quite grasp how tough it is commercially; their experience of business is of spending money not generating it. It’s really rather a lot, £10 million. And it’s a huge amount when all the rest of us hear is cost-cutting, redundancies, profit warnings, losses?.

Nonetheless, my money is on Steve White being on the start line in 2012. He’s single-minded and adaptable. The acid test, I think, is that he is in a position to be able to step down from a top line boat to a more modest Plan B if necessary, and if he must, he still has an excellent chance of improving his performance and return for a sponsor.

Good luck to him.